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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Death of a Building Part 3

Originally published on Photoblog by Gethin Thomas AUGUST. 08, 2020

This is the first set documenting the actual soft demolition of Birmingham Library. Please see parts one and two for some background and photos of the building exterior and interior before demolition began.

Demolition started at the end of 2015, I started my project in January 2016 after the first chunk had been removed from the main structure.

I had three main vantage points early in the process. From the portico of the Art Gallery next door. This area was raised up so gave a view over the site above the screens around the site. From a terrace next to the Town Hall, and from the balcony of the Conservatoire, which was also later demolished, but in the early stages continued to be accessible.

As demolition moved to the Conservatoire later a fourth main vantage point opened up on a walkway to the rear which remained open throughout.

Seen through the classical columns of the Birmingham Town Hall.

The Chamberlain Memorial remained throughout the demolition, perilously close to the edge of the site.

This is the mezzanine area reading room shown in an earlier set.

In a previous set you will see an interior shot of this storage room. The rows of storage machines are still visible during the demolition.

You can just make out a rainbow sheen to the left of the claw. Throughout the demolition, water was sprayed to control dust. Every inch of concrete in this enormous structure was crushed by mechanical claws which also cut through the steel reinforcing bars. There were no drills or explosives used.

Fleets of trucks removed rubble continuously, queuing up in the main entrance. The main West Coast Train line linking the north and south of the country passed in a tunnel close to the base of the building so traditional demolition methods could not be used. The roads around the building were a major part of the traffic hub of the city. Some were closed for a year and later re-routed as a tram line was also added.

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